Hugo and I had our 2nd lesson yesterday evening. My third ride on him, I was extremely eager to get to work. It’s been awhile since I’ve worked with such a green bean, so I needed some pretty constant reminders about how to ride him.
For starters, I can’t ride him like he’s trained. He needs lots of positive reinforcement for even the slightest correct response to the aids. A couple steps of true straightness? Pat and praise! A few steps of counter bend and moving off my leg when I ask? Good boy!! Trotting too fast and strung out? Slow my post and relax my body, don’t immediately go to the hand.
I feel like hunters is this constant battle of wanting your horse to be self carrying in a light and uphill balance, but also trying to achieve it with minimal rein aid. This is a real struggle for me because I grew up in dressage land where contact is an important part of the equation. I like contact, I am comfortable with contact. Plenty of well schooled hunters can go quite similar to dressage horses, so I can often get away with a good bit of contact. But not on baby Hugo. If I take too much contact he just drops behind the pressure and loses his hind end.
Our flatwork feels like a balancing act of asking for everything in tiny increments and then immediately recognizing and praising when he gives it to me. Thankfully, he is making my job really easy right now. Proving himself to be an incredibly chill dude, we had an extremely positive lesson. He already trots ground poles just as good, if not better then Rio who has always hated trot poles.
He doesn’t care about trot jumps at all. Doesn’t rush or get nervous. We cantered our first single and had a nice rolling canter on the approach and found a forward longish spot, but he stayed straight and eagerly powered off the ground without hesitation. So far he hasn’t looked twice at any of the jumps in the ring. He is interested in the donkeys in the pasture nearby, but doesn’t lose his head about it and can be refocused on the task at hand.
My trainer is going to ride him today and tomorrow, and I have another lesson lined up for Saturday, and I’ll hack him on Sunday. I’ll post more updates Monday!